FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF EDDY COUNTY Lisa B. Riley,
H. Balderas, Attorney General Santa Fe, NM Laurie P. Blevins,
Assistant Attorney General Albuquerque, NM for Appellee.
Bennett J. Baur, Chief Public Defender, William A.
O'Connell, Assistant Appellate Defender Santa Fe, NM for
J. KIEHNE, Judge.
Defendant appeals his conviction for second-degree murder
arising from the shooting of his girlfriend, Brandy Capps
(Victim). Defendant argues that statements made by Victim
should not have been admitted at trial because they were
inadmissible hearsay, and that his conviction must be
reversed. We hold that all but one of the challenged
statements were properly admitted under Rule 11-803(3) NMRA.
The remaining statement was not admissible under any
exception to the rule against hearsay, but its admission was
harmless error. Defendant also challenges the admission of
evidence about a previous domestic violence dispute between
him and Victim. We hold that the domestic dispute evidence
was admissible under Rule 11-404(B) NMRA.
Defendant was in a romantic relationship with Victim for the
two years that preceded her death. The evidence showed that
the relationship was rocky and Defendant occasionally became
violent with Victim. At the time of Victim's death at the
end of July 2010 she lived in Lubbock, Texas, but was
visiting Defendant and friends in Artesia, New Mexico, where
she used to live. On the day of Victim's death, Defendant
was in the driver's seat of Victim's car as the
couple set out from Defendant's father's house to run
errands. Victim was in the passenger seat. Defendant
testified that he reached into the back seat area to get a
revolver, and as he brought the gun to the front seat area,
it went off. A bullet struck Victim in the face and she died
as a result of the gunshot wound.
trial, the State argued that Defendant intentionally shot
Victim to prevent her from testifying against him in a
domestic violence case pending against him in Lubbock, and
out of anger because she planned to break up with him.
Defendant testified that the shooting was an accident and
that the gun simply "went off." Defendant claimed
that the gun was in a bag of clothing in the back seat of the
car. He testified that he did not know the hammer of the gun
was cocked, and that as he was bringing the gun over the
seat, the gun fired accidentally.
Among the evidence the State presented to prove that the
shooting was not an accident, Victim's friends and family
testified about statements Victim had made to them.
Collectively, they testified that Victim stated that she was
anxious to leave Artesia and never return, and that she
wanted to break off her relationship with Defendant. The
State also presented evidence of a 2009 domestic violence
incident in Artesia involving the couple in which the officer
who arrested Defendant heard him shout "I'm not
going to jail over this shit, " and saw him standing
over Victim in an aggressive manner.
Defendant challenges the admission of Victim's statements
on hearsay grounds, and argues that the domestic violence
incident was. improper propensity evidence and that it was
unfairly prejudicial. For the reasons that follow, we are not
"We review the admission of evidence under an abuse of
discretion standard and will not reverse in the absence of
clear abuse." State v. Sarracino, 1998-NMSC-
022, ¶ 20, 125 N.M. 511, 964 P.2d 72. An abuse of
discretion occurs when a trial court "exercises its
discretion based on a misunderstanding of the law."
State v. Vigil, 2014-NMCA-096, ¶ 20, 336 P.3d
Two of Victim's statements were relevant to negate
Defendant's accident defense
The State introduced statements that Victim made to two
witnesses, Brooklyn Edwards, Victim's niece, and Dova
Cronian, a former coworker and friend of Victim's.
Defendant objected to these statements as hearsay. The Court
admitted the statements made to Ms. Edwards as both excited
utterances and evidence of Victim's state of mind and